staked plain

A dry, southern extension of the Great Plains, stretching south from the Canadian River all the way down to the Pecos, the staked plains, home of the Kiowa and the Kwahadi Comanche, are usually referred to by Coronado’s term from 1541, llano estacado. According to legend, he called them “staked” because they were so vast and featureless that his men had to mark their trails with stakes so they could find their way back. Another possible explanation is that, because there was nothing to tie the horses to at night, Coronado’s men had to use stakes for this purpose. Either way, he was right: the Llano Estacado is both vast (forty thousand square miles) and without landmark—the largest, flattest tableland in North America. Natives to the areas around Amarillo and Lubbock—the respective centers of the north and south plains of the Llano Estacado—often feel cramped in the mountains of the Northwest or the dense tree cover of the Southeast, simply because the sky, in comparison to the Llano Estacado’s, is so small.

Stephen Graham Jones